We have seen indicators before that Yusuke is not a fan of Tokyo or the real world in general, and that he feels more comfortable and functions more competently in the game-like world. There have also been hints that he does not fit in socially, but we have not seen much elaboration on that point. The first part of this episode, where he has to work his way out of the pit he fell into last episode, elucidates more fully on that even as his light source fades.
Yusuke's problem was not so much being a social outcast as just never fitting in. No one really ostracized him; in fact, Yusuke seems to lay the blame on himself even if he does not openly admit that. He did not adjust to a new school well, did not make friends easily, and saw many of his long-term efforts thwarted through happenstance. It did look like he eventually made some friends (and I am not sure how much can be read into the incident with the bear), so this is not one of those cases of a tragically downtrodden youth, just an awkward one. His efforts to climb out of the pit – where he fell and died several times before finally succeeding in the dark – are presumably meant to symbolize his struggles through childhood. And while he later talks about his role here being the leader, it looks more like he decided on that being his role rather than simply accepting it as being given to him.
Meanwhile, the girls have to face the gargoyle on their own, and I was quite pleased to see them defeat it without Yusuke's intervention, even if Kahvel nearly died in the process. Iu's flashbacks here reveal why she is not playing tennis anymore: again, not because of anything nefarious, but because she did not feel she was good enough. In fact, a recurring theme here seems to be that the struggles of each hero are more because of their own limitations or attitudes than any outside element. Iu's leveling up, combined with the slick moves she makes as a sword warrior and the lessons she learned from Kahvel, suggest that she is more a natural in this role despite what she sees as her lack of strength. (After all, you have to give creds to someone who uses their own severed arm to kill a foe, right?) Will we see the reverse from Kusue when she finally hits level 10?
Several other things struck me as interesting about this episode. One is the attention paid to location of the wound and angle of the attack. Another is the visual depiction of Kahvel's wound; you almost never see that kind of detail in anime series. (Wounds tend to be either massively more traumatic or minor affairs, especially on female characters.) Also, apparently the affable bearded soldier bit it off-screen? That there are no details about how it happened is odd and a glaring omission, but I did like how the scene was handled otherwise. And injury or no, Kahvel does not stray from her character or predilections.
Yusuke's episode-ending epiphany that their questions are far less specific than they assumed could be a game-changing development going forward, but Yuka's last line – “why do I feel like I've been dumped by a guy I didn't ask out?” – was definitely a favorite. Right now, the series feels like it is headed in a good direction.